December 20, 2006 7:20am CST
Growing two or more types of vegetables in the same place at the same time is known as interplanting. Proper planning is essential to obtain high production and maintain the quality of the crops you planted. This technique has been practiced for thousands of years, but is just now gaining widespread support in this country. To successfully plan an interplanted garden you must take into account several factors for each plant: the length of its growth period, its growth pattern (tall, short, below or above ground), possible negative effects on other plants (such as the allelopathic effects of sunflowers and Jerusalem artichokes on nearby plants), preferred season, and light, nutrient, and moisture requirements. You can accomplish interplanting by alternating rows within a bed (plant a row of peppers next to a row of onions), by mixing plants within a row, or by distributing various species throughout the bed. For the beginner, alternating rows may be the easiest to manage. Long-season (slow-maturing) and short-season (quickmaturing) plants like carrots and radishes, respectively, can be planted at the same time. The radishes are harvested before they begin to crowd the carrots. An example of combining growth patterns is planting smaller plants close to larger plants, (radishes at the base of beans or broccoli). Shade tolerant species like lettuce, spinach, and celery may be planted in the shadow of taller crops. Heavy feeders, such as cabbage family crops, should be mixed with less gluttonous plants. Root, leaf, and soil-building crops (legumes) may be mixed to take advantage of available nutrients. Interplanting can help keep insect and disease problems under control. Pests are fairly crop-specific; that is, they prefer vegetables of one type or family. Mixing families of plants avoids large expanses of the pest-preferred crop, helping to contain early pest damage within a small area, giving you a little more time to deal with the problem. One disadvantage is that when it does come time to spray for pests, it’s harder to be sure that all plants are protected.